Recently I met with a group of church educators and the topic of discussion was soul care. Soul, not in the sense of that part of us that is eternal, but rather that part of us that is our spiritual essence that longs to be in relationship with God. The group concurred that one of their biggest challenges was to slow down long enough to be with God in a focused and intentional way. Most would admit that the clamor of ministry often drowns out the still quiet voice of God speaking into their lives. That the speed of ministry deters their attempts to slow down long enough to simply be with God.
A noted Christian therapist once said that the reason ministers can’t stop is that they are terrified of what they will see inside themselves if they slow down. That slowing down will reveal their emptiness and that their entire self-worth is rooted in their work performance. Slowing down inevitably obliterates their sense of self.
Living in New Mexico I have heard stories of high-powered executives who retired here only to have to confront their inner demons after a few months of slowing down. They either get the counseling they need, or they return to work to avoid addressing their issues.
Two Existential Rhythms – The Speed Of The Mind And The Speed Of The Soul
Wayne Muller, author of Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives, tells a story of being invited to lead a group of tech company young executives in an offsite Sabbath retreat. After several failed attempts to lower the RPM’s of the group, Wayne found a set of exercises that finally slowed the group down. After several minutes of these exercises Wayne noticed that the entire group was asleep in their chairs or lying on the floor, except for the CEO who had invited him. Approaching Wayne the young CEO remarked, “so this is what it feels like to slow down. I was mistaking synergy for energy.” Speed was the mission of their company, their purpose, and one of the reasons for their success. Speed was also their Achilles heel. The pace they kept and the success they achieved created an inertia that felt like energy. Once they slowed down, they discovered they had no real energy, only the inertia of their fast-paced existence.
Similarly, the pace of ministry can feel like energy when really it is only inertia. This pace contributes to our success, but it is also our kryptonite. When God suddenly stops or slows us through crisis, tragedy, health or circumstances we find we have no real spiritual or physical energy left to deal with what we are experiencing. We’ve been getting by on inertia.
The young tech executives and ministers both use their brains constantly. But they are humans and also have a soul and their minds and souls travel at different speeds. For instance, try this experiment: Imagine a church steeple; now, imagine a church sanctuary; now, imagine a church nursery. Easy right? And lightning fast. Now, do this: feel love; feel joy; now, feel peace. Totally different. And much slower. The speed of the mind, and the speed of the soul have two different tempos.
We have in fact two existential rhythms – the speed of the mind, and the speed of the soul. Thanks to our Western culture the speed of the mind is our default gear. This negates a lot of opportunity and possibility because not everything can be acquired through the speed of the mind. Some things – deep things, true things, wise things, spiritual things – things of God, require the speed of the soul.
I encourage you to travel at the speed of your soul, whenever you can.
Posted on March 7, 2023